Adrian Allinson, Crisis of Brilliance, David Boyd Haycock, Dolly Henry, drama, Edward Marsh, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Isabella, John Currie, love, Mark Gertler, Michael Sadler, Ostend, photo, portrait, Rupert Brooke, Slade, Stanley Spencer
The picture came to my possession through my daughter Isabella who is acquainted with this young woman Dolly Henry through her school friends. Not to sound old-fashioned, but she is a questionable character if you ask me. She is the girlfriend of this Irish artist called Currie, whom Izzy cannot suffer due to his bad temper and drinking. Mark Gertler, a somewhat less obstreperous artist is also a friend. I happen to know that Sir Michael is very keen on Gertler’s art and there is talk about commissioning him to paint a portrait at some point.
Anyway, Currie, Dolly Henry and Mark Gertler went on holiday to Ostend earlier this month and this is where they took this photo. They had a good time but Gertler is concerned about Currie’s behavior. Izzy thinks this relationship between young Dolly and Currie is doomed and will end in tragedy, but you know how these young girls are, everything must be so dramatic and passionate!
Mark Gertler was in fact commissioned to paint Sir Michael’s portrait two years later, which is on display in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds.
And Isabella was right: the romance of Curry and Dolly was doomed. On 8th October 1914, Currie murdered Dolly Henry. The Times reported the following day. “A young woman, whose name is said to be Dorothy or Eileen Henry, was found fatally shot in a house in Chelsea… At a quarter to eight yesterday morning shots and screams were heard. The other occupants of the house ran upstairs and found the woman on the landing in her nightdress bleeding from wounds. In the bedroom a man partly dressed was discovered with wounds in the chest. He was taken to Chelsea infirmary, but the woman died before the arrival of a doctor.” Currie died three days later. His final words were: “It was all so ugly”.
Michael Sadler later wrote: “Dolly drove Currie mad, and deprived the world of a genuine artist and a devoted worker. He was a man who, had circumstances been a little kinder, would have made a great reputation and lived a full an happy life.”
David Boyd Haycock, the author of A Crisis of Brilliance (2009): “They were indifferent to public opinion – an independence of mind that impressed the young Gertler. But it was a hopelessly doomed relationship. Dolly was poorly educated, unintelligent, and had no interest in art. She resented Currie’s absorption in his work, and attempted to make herself the centre of his life.” Haycock quotes a friend who later recalled that Dolly used the power of her beauty and sexuality “to goad him from abject desire to baffled fury and then, suddenly complaisant, to win him back again. This dangerous cruelty led to violent quarrels and blows.”
Gertler suggested that Currie’s love of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche had left him immoral. Stanley Spencer strongly disliked Currie and said: “I cannot bear him.” Adrian Allinson pointed out that Currie was insanely jealous of Dolly: “Violent jealously continually drove Currie to threats of murder… Dolly’s beauty, and pity for her lot, aroused in more than one painter the desire to replace the Irishman, so that Currie’s jealousy, originally groundless, in time created the conditions for its own justification.”
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska introduced Currie to Edward Marsh, the great-grandson of Spencer Perceval,who was a major collector of modern art. He invited Currie to dinner at Gray’s Inn. He brought Dolly Henry with him and Marsh described her as “an extremely pretty Irish girl with red hair”. The following day he wrote to Rupert Brooke: “Currie came yesterday I have conceived a passion for both him and Gertler, they are decidedly two of the most interesting of les jeunes, and I can hardly wait till you come back to make their acquaintance.”
[Currie’s life and quotes from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTcurrieJ.htm]